Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Revenge: “Renaissance”

This is the best thing that's happened. To all of us.
Gabriel Mann

The season four premiere of Revenge finds the show at a crossroads. In last season’s finale, Emily finally got her long-awaited revenge against the Grayson family, a revenge that left Conrad in jail (only to be later released and killed) and Victoria in a mental institution, ranting about Emily’s true identity. It was an ending three seasons in the making, and one the show both earned and yet almost had to do in order to keep the show viable in the future. After finally fulfilling the revenge it promised in the pilot, the one question Revenge needed to answer in this premiere is “Now what?”

I’m not quite sure they got there.

Much of the episode was disorienting, starting out with the opening voiceover coming from Victoria rather than Emily. Through Victoria’s opening monologue, which turns out to be something she’s sharing at a group session in the mental institution, we learn that six months have passed since Conrad’s death, six months of Victoria being locked up in this place. Logistical impossibilities aside—I just assume Emily paid someone a lot of money to make sure Victoria couldn’t get out—it’s very amusing to think of Victoria slowly rotting away in this place, spending every waking moment plotting a way to escape and exact her own revenge on Emily for putting her there. She does in fact escape and immediately ends up on Emily’s doorstep, proclaiming herself the new Emily Thorne of the Hamptons, arriving with a grudge to settle and revenge on her mind, and the whole show comes full circle. Whether or not Victoria’s promise of revenge comes to pass, it’s certainly a fun, soapy idea to have Emily and Victoria switch places completely in the narrative, with a lot of rich story possibilities.

As for the doorstep Victoria came to, she was technically coming home, as Emily decided to buy Grayson Manor and redecorate it in order to erase every last vestige of the Graysons in the Hamptons. It’s the ultimate end to her revenge against the Graysons, but it also feels obsessive and a bit crazy. “Obsessive and crazy” is a decent descriptor of Emily’s actual state of mind following the completion of her revenge. On the surface, it seems as if she got everything she wanted, but in the process she completely lost herself. Emily says it herself: Amanda Clarke died when everyone she loved died, too. All she has left is Emily Thorne, and all Emily Thorne knows is revenge. Hence, the fancy party she throws just to dish out some unwanted revenge to a guy who killed an innocent woman’s fiance. Hence, her huge fight with Nolan, who is the only one who truly recognizes how far down the rabbit hole she went. Emily’s only tether to her past life (and her self-professed only tether to the Hamptons) is her hope she can reconcile with Charlotte, who she thinks is her only living relative.

That brings us to Charlotte, who is demonstrably terrible. Charlotte has had a rough life: A sleazy father in Conrad, who turned out to not be her father and then turned up dead; A convicted terrorist biological father, also dead; A boyfriend, also dead; A pregnancy from that dead boyfriend, miscarried. Charlotte has not had a great life and yet, it’s very, very difficult to find any sympathy for her. Perhaps because she tries to be cold like Victoria but isn’t quite up to the task. Perhaps because she basically kidnaps Carl and feels no remorse. Perhaps because she continually asks her brother to pay her ($7,000!) rent in New York City instead of, you know, going to school or getting a job. Perhaps because she does coke openly at a party and then acts all haughty when a cop wants to bust her. It’s generally very tiresome to watch Charlotte, and her prominence in this episode doesn’t say promising things for the season.

One thing that does have the potential to be promising but is kind of a big old mess here is David Clarke. David—who I always assumed was alive, because, soap opera—leapt back on the Hamptons scene last season in the best way by killing his nemesis Conrad Grayson. What he’s doing in the Hamptons now appears to be the season’s big mystery, as he hides in Emily’s old house but doesn’t approach her and then only shows up again to snatch Victoria as she’s leaving Emily’s new house at the end. Does David even realize Emily is Amanda? Where has he been this whole time, if so? His presence now is definitely more about questions than answers.

Now, for the ridiculous: Jack is a cop. Jack, who we last saw six months ago getting arrested (or at least brought in for questioning) for kidnapping Charlotte, is a rookie cop. It’s a gloriously clunky retcon, as Jack admits to Emily he thought about becoming a cop several times in the past few years, you know, but her revenge plot always got in his way. Jack as a cop is the most ridiculous, dumb thing this show has ever done, and this is a show that has done a lot of ridiculous dumb things. If Jack thinks he won’t be compromised by Emily somehow, he is more of a moron than we always suspected. At least his cop haircut looks good.


Overall, this was a premiere that was intent to introduce a lot of things, which is fine for the show going forward but doesn’t make for a very satisfying episode. The stories were more about reconnecting with the characters rather than presenting a connected, cohesive episode, and felt especially messy in the case of Emily’s revenge plot at the party. Emily intervening to exact revenge on someone else’s behalf was meant to be a way to explore her psyche in the aftermath of Aiden’s death, but it was so perfunctory it didn’t really land as well as I think the writers intended. The best part was Nolan trying to help Emily throughout it, because their relationship is reliably one of the best things about the show.

Going forward, though, Revenge is going to have to determine what the show looks like without Emily going after the Graysons at every turn, because as shown in this episode, they haven’t quite figured that part out yet.


Stray observations:

  • As indicated in today’s What’s On Tonight, this is the last regular TV Club Revenge review. Thanks for all of the fun times in the comments, especially during the doldrums of season two. (And I’ll still be tweeting about the show every week so feel free to find me there!)
  • New recurring character roundup: Louise, the psych ward Southern belle with a terrible accent (meh), and Ben, Jack’s partner on the force (eh). Not an auspicious start, but I’m sure there is more to come for both of them.
  • JACK IS A COP. I can’t get over it.
  • Nolan getting carried into Emily’s party on a chaise by a group of boys in sailor suits? Perfection.
  • Choice Nolan quotes: “So there won’t be any poisonings?”; “Slow down, Po Po Porter.”; “You’re a snowflake. A unique, bloodthirsty snowflake.”